Gold mining


Gold pan saloon

I’ve just had a look (be it brief) at the recent report “Heading for the open road: Costs and benefits of transitions in scholarly communications“, commissioned by the Research Information Network (RIN), JISC, Research Libraries UK (RLUK), the Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) and the Wellcome Trust, with contributions from many other (including publishers).

Although I was very much looking forward to this report, I was a bit disappointed that “Gold” ended up being the model that came out on top. I haven’t read the full report, so I can’t actually attempt to poke holes in the analysis, and I will have to take a look at the numbers they present in more detail when I have time. I was a bit concerned about comments that were made about not undermining the publication system – isn’t this to some extent part of the whole point of open access? I thought we were unhappy with the current publication system? Maybe not?

It is fantastic that OA is gaining momentum, and publishers are realising the role they can play (and money they can make), but following the “gold” route will likely leave the scholarly communication system in the hands of for-profit publishers. Isn’t that why the system is currebtly not working for us, and libraries are struggling to pay the bills? Do we really want publishers to have all the power?

I still would like to see some additional modelling on possible outcomes, say :

  • If some percentage (20%, 50%?) of libraries cancelled all subscriptions next week – what  would happen to publishers, how would they change?
  • If 50% of article were put into repositories next week – how would the scholarly communication system change?
  • What would collapse of the system actually mean?

Perhaps these ideas (and the modelling) are unrealistic, but it would at least be interesting to actually model some potential outcomes. I am fairly confident we would find a way to continue distributing and sharing research outputs, even if publishers disappeared (and I am sure they wouldn’t, they would just have to figure out a new business model).

Image credit: Close to Spectacular

Quality Assurance

On Monday I attended an event at the Royal College of Physicians in London, put on by the Research Information Network – part of their series on Research Information in Transition. This one was titled Quality Assurance – responding to a changing information world.

The first speaker, Richard Grant (his notes here), focused on “motivation”, and brought up the issue of “effort to reward ratio” and the idea of “impact credits”.  These themes have come up again and again (in the conversations I have had with people), and it seems there clearly needs to be a change in the reward system before people will fully buy into a change in the peer-review, or more generally- scholarly communication, system.

Theo Bloom then discussed some of the other issues we face when discussing quality assessment in the world of web 2.0. She noted that although people don’t often comment in the spaces provided on journal homepages, they do comment elsewhere, and there is a need to tie existing comments (from blogs, etc) back to articles.

Stephen Curry was up next and he focused mostly on social media and its place (or does it have a place?) in academics’ lives. I wasn’t sure how this related directly to the idea of quality assurance. He may have been getting at the idea that these tools could be used for quality assurance – or perhaps that these tools need some form of quality assurance…(but I may have come to those conclusions on my own).

Tristram Hooley wrapped things up by further discussing social media – and clearly stated that he doubted the usefulness of the idea of “quality”, and noted that quality means different things to different people. He also described the importance of filtering (and the role of networks and folksonomies in this process) and how this can help to lead to alternative ways of identifying value and quality. (Aside: Cameron Neylon has a blog post and has shared a presentation along the same line).

Of course this event was a space for discussion rather than provision of answers, and many questions still remain.

  • Is quality assurance needed? (for academics articles? – seems like people still feel the answer is yes – but the current peer-review system could change…for other forms of academic communication? – perhaps quality assurance of another kind?)
  • How do we get people to participate / assess the quality of things? – whether it’s in the form of traditional peer-review or in the form of social media? (a different reward systems may be the answer?)
  • With these new forms of quality assurance (blog posts, comments, network, folksonomies) there needs to be a way to connect them back to the item they are evaluating or rating (not sure about this one? Any ideas??)

 

Check out the “Authoring and Publishing” section on the Quailty page of the Scholarly Communications Action Handbook for more thoughts on this.

Image credit: Kevin (KB35)

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